We headed out of Texas on Sunday morning. On the agenda this day was a visit to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, so we headed up Texas Route 54 as we had the day before, once again towards the Guadalupe Mountains. The weather was not good, overcast and rainy; a good day to spend underground! We were glad to have seen El Capitan the day before in the brilliant sunshine.
After finishing that excellent dinner the previous night at The Cattle Company in Van Horn, I went online and made reservations for entry into the Caverns. With the increasing popularity of the National Parks and Forests, I guess something had to be implemented to help cope with the crowds. The Recreation.gov website is that something. And while the Lifetime Pass did cover the $15 per person entry fee for the park, there are additional charges for the “reservation”. Being old enough to remember when there were not fees or reservations for taxpayer-funded National Parks and the like, the additional governmental grift rankled.
Regardless, I paid the additional $2 and reserved an entry window from 11:30AM – 12:30PM at the Caverns.
We crossed into Mountain Time upon entering New Mexico, but even with the added hour we didn’t arrive at the Visitor Center until a bit after noon.
It was very crowded, being the middle day of the 3-day weekend. We were lucky to grab a parking spot not far from the entrance to the center. We parked the Transcontinental Jeep and headed in.
And then spent the next 45 minutes waiting in line. Like I said, it was crowded. When we finally got to the two Park Rangers collecting entry fees and checking reservations, I asked what was the point of a reservation if we had to wait in the same line as those without reservations? The nice young man did not answer.
Wife and I then joined another line to wait our turn to take the elevator down 750 feet to the main cavern. Had the place not been so crazily crowded, I probably would have opted for the short hike down into the cavern, but not this day. Maybe I’ll do that if we return.
The elevator line was much shorter, and it wasn’t long until Wife and I were traveling with 14 new friends deep down into the earth. It was a quick ride, and when the elevator doors opened we exited into the darkness. What light there was in the area near the elevators was very dim, barely enough to see the signage for the concession stand, elevators and restrooms. Beyond that immediate area, darkness reigned.
Seeing as we were in the “Big Room”, Wife and I decided to journey along its 1 ¼ mile long trail. The trail is mostly flat and smooth, and is bounded by steel handrails throughout. Visibility was better once your eyes adjusted to the dark. This was a continuous process as flashlights are allowed, and being as crowded as it was that day there was no shortage of people piercing the darkness with their high-powered torches.
This was a very challenging environment for photography, and we only brought our phones with us. Here are some of the better shots.
Here’s a link to some better photos on the National Park website.
Touring the Big Room took us about two hours. There is so much to see down there. I can just imagine what it was like to be one of the first explorers in the cave, with limited light. There are some extremely deep holes sprinkled about. I’d love to see the cave under lighted conditions, but am not sure that’s an option.
We took a break at the concession/ eating area before taking the elevator up to the Visitor Center. Although the huge line for entry was gone, the place was still crawling with people- too crowded. It was time to leave. All in all, this was a great place to visit, and we’ll return one day if in the neighborhood. Hopefully it will be mid-week!
We exited the Visitor Center into a drier day, but extremely windy. After eating a quick lunch in the Jeep and out of that wind, we joined the slow procession off the top of the ridge towards the Park entrance. Our plan for the balance of the day was to proceed north towards Roswell, where we had reservations for the night. We also needed to stop along the way for some provisions, which we did in the city of Carlsbad, New Mexico.
That’ll do it for this installment of Notes From The Road. Next up will cover further adventures in New Mexico. Thanks for coming by!